Megan Grammatico ’15
I had a very thought-provoking conversation with a sophomore that I was working with in the Writing Center a few days ago. She was stressing about her study abroad application, due in a few short weeks, and she asked me if I had gone abroad. When I told her that I had spent some of the best months of my junior year (and my life, if we’re being honest) in Copenhagen, Denmark, her face fell a little. “Everyone keeps SAYING that,” she said, almost exasperatedly. “But there’s so much to worry about here—I’ll just travel someday when I’m older. I have to plan my classes and make my double major work and study for the LSAT and and and…” I listened, and nodded empathetically, and told her I understood, because I did. That girl, the freaked out one that has her life planned for the next five years, that makes a schedule broken down by hour because it’s the only way she can be absolutely sure not to drop any of the million-and-one-balls she has in the air at any given time—she was me. She was me, and she was stressed out and unhappy and so worried about planning her life that she was forgetting to actually live it. I wish I had had time to explain to her what living abroad had meant for me, how much it changed me, but the appointment ended, and I mumbled some tired cliché about seizing opportunities that present themselves, and we both headed off to the next thing on our to-do lists.
I thought about this girl all day, and all of the things that I wished I had said to her. I wish I had told her about the jumble of excitement and terror you feel when you wave goodbye to your sobbing mom and cheerfully waving dad at the airport gate. I wish I had told her about the feeling on that first morning, when you wake up confused because it’s five a.m and you’ve never woken up so early on your own and the snow is swirling outside and you’re so out of your element, out of your comfort zone, that you want to crawl back in bed for the day but the excited part of you insists on waking up, on getting started. I wish I had told her about buying a bike from a random Swiss graduate student, and learning to ride said bike in downtown Copenhagen traffic. I wish I had told her about the incredible friends you make; the visiting family parents that start to feel like your own parents, only better because they always seem to be refilling your wine glass. I wish so much that I had told her how empowering it is to plan a trip to a place you’ve only read about in books, to budget and figure out details and logistics and landmarks, only to wind up winging it, asking strangers for directions in badly accented French that you sort of remember from middle school, and sleeping on the floor of a one room flat with some of the best friends you’ll ever have. I wish I could have told her that map-reading is actually a pretty valuable life skill, that Wi-Fi is never to be taken for granted, that you absolutely can wear the exact same thing you wore yesterday, just as long as you change your scarf. I wish I had told her that you should do one thing every single day that terrifies you, even if it is jumping in the frozen ocean in the middle of February because that’s what the local people do.
On the plane ride home from Copenhagen, I read a quote that stuck with me. Terry Pratchett, the author of A Hat Full of Sky, says:
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving”
Pratchett is right. Though I don’t live in Copenhagen anymore, and I don’t spend my weekends and exploring Europe, I try, everyday, to live the way that I did when I was all of those places. I think that you should try it too. Stop planning every second of everyday. Stop to notice sunsets, and resist the urge to Instagram them. Linger over meals to talk a little bit longer with people that love you. Do something scary, or do something brave, or do something you’ve always wanted to do but could never quite find the time. I can’t tell you what those things are. They’re different for everyone.
Most of all, most importantly, stop living for someday. We all do it; the conversation in our heads usually goes a little something like this “I’ll be happy once finals are over, or I finish this paper, or once I find a job for next year, or get accepted to graduate school or finally meet someone I really like—then I’ll have time to be happy”. Though I could have told the girl in the Writing Center hours of stories about the joys of living abroad, what I really wish I had told her is this: “someday” is right now. “Someday” is happening this very minute, not tomorrow or next week or next year. “Someday” is very quickly going to become yesterday, and what you can do right now is make sure it’s worth remembering.